After the trekking around Hsipaw, where we felt like living 100 years ago, the adventure with the time machine continued. The country is still Burma or Myanmar as it is better known for the last 30-40 years. The route – Hsipaw – Pyin U Lwin. By train. Not just train but The train! The distance is about 150 km and we were about to arrive in 8 hours. Even the children can notice the speed of the motion. Of course, in reality the things happened with a long delay.
You may say – what is it about? Let us share some more details.
The train passes through very pristine places and the highest viaduct in Burma and one of the highest in the world at the time of its construction. You will ask when that time was. The year was 1901. At the time of the British Empire. Evil tongues say that the Burmese government has not repaired the viaduct while the British insurance was still in force. In 1990 the military junta did a kind of repair. However, the repair did not cover the coaches. Anyway, the train speed does not exceed 40 km/h, while passing the viaduct – 5 km/h. It is said that this is to allow tourists to enjoy the beauties and to make pictures at large, but not a word about the security.
The truth is that traveling by this train is an epic adventure as our teenagers say. And highly recommended as an attraction in every travel site.
There are many explorers like us at the station in the morning. The clerk sells the tickets with due diligence, records the data of the passport of each of us in a big book, as if this trip will immortalize us. And who knows… The clerk pays minute or two to everybody, with personal attention to the citizenship. Of course, once again we cause sensation and we feel like pioneers, because no Bulgarian has visited these lands as the gentleman shared.
There are even four men who came the day before by motorbikes, but as the highway seemed to be too long and too curvy they decided to catch the train-attraction on the way back and load the motorbikes in the goods wagon. The quartet consists of middle-aged men (whatever that means from our current point of view) of different nationalities and living in different parts of the world now, but at some point life had gathered them (in Thailand, as one of them had a diving company there), made of them good friends and since then they meet and make an epic men’s (only?) journey every year, mostly in the region.
We bought UPEER CLASS tickets for USD 3 per person (there couldn’t be higher class than this ;)). All waiting with eyes full with eagerness because of the forthcoming adventure. Finally, the train curator, also switchman hits a rail piece hanging on a rope from the ceiling with a little hammer, thus announcing the arrival of Mr. Trent. It is coming! The most awaited one!
No one is in a hurry to get on the train the fastest way, neither the train is in a hurry. What is the meaning of the time here?
The coach is of shared type, the seats are wide, relatively comfortable and with a lot of legroom that business and first class clients of air transport companies can only envy.
And did it go forward? No, it was in all directions at the same time. As the rails were so distorted by heat and the age, the train goes not only forward, but up-down, left-right and if we say back and forth we will not lie. We put all the luggages on the stands, well tightened with ropes we purposefully carried in our backpacks. They were supposed to have been well tightened, but not. During one of the strongest shakings – 8.1 according Richter scale and 10 according Medvedev-Shponhoyer-Karnik scale, our male 80-liters backpack so rigorouysly fell down right over the female little head of our two-headed dragon that all the foreigners in the coach jumped as one with eyes full of fear. Thanks god, the backpack turned out to be stiff – it survived! Are you asking about the female little head?! She could not be crushed with such elementary tricks! Remember the movie – The naked gun!
The jogger, the creak and the movement which is unexplainable by physical laws of motion, takes the casual citizen’s breath away, though he has purposefully got into this vehicle. Each coach has its own trajectory, each one shakes on its own, each one has its own position and place in space, like it is a coach-fugitive running away from the rest of the train composition.
Besides the backpacks falling from the sky, another danger lurking on the train was the fact that it had no windows. None! This was perceived as a cooling extra, but only if you are not sitting by the missing windows. All branches of trees, growing bushes, etc., that dared to grow right next to the rails and stretched their arms towards the passing iron chariot, struck with great force each opening, acting as a window. The sound was like made by stick on metal surface. This sound was almost permanent, but when you hear it, immediately bend down towards the middle of the coach if you don’t want to be hit by another floral creation of nature. Well, we were hit; the victim once again was the female little head. She will remember this epic train she survived.
We cannot miss to mention the catering services that spoiled us during the trip. So many people passed back and forth offering us Burmese gourmet dishes, beers, whiskeys, rum and so on and we completed this 8-hours adventure neither hungry and certainly not thirsty. To make it better, the train stopped for a long time at each station. Everybody can get down without hurry, hang around, buy staff, eat, drink, gets back on the train and waits another time for the next departure. Haste is a dirty word round about.
While chatting with the others, eating, drinking and surviving, we reached the famous viaduct which is the reason why many foreigners are going through the above mentioned. Never mind how much we have read or how many youtube videos we have watched, as we saw it, we could not remain silent. The construction is tremendous, the rivets are countless, the length is 700 meters, and the height from which you can jump is 100 meters. The train completely slowed down its turtle speed to 3-5 km/h and then the photographing and video recording started. Every living being took out any cinematographic technique to immortalize the moment. And it worths the efforts, believe us, it was a unique experience. And scary. Which makes it even more unique. We do not know how much time it took to pass the viaduct, but it was like eternity, as it’s written in the books. We took pales of pictures and kilometers of video tapes, even young and skillful landscape painters painted it for future exhibition.
So after eight hours and a half slowly and gloriously we arrived in Pyin U Lwin, where one of our memorable adventures in Burma awaited us. About that – later on.